Royal Arch Masonry

It is believed the degree of Royal Arch was introduced to Ireland around 1740.

The celebrated Masonic historian, Bro. W.J. Chetwoode Crawley LL.D., D.C.L., referred in his publication “Caementaria Hibernica”, (published 1895) to a procession on St. John’s Day, 27th December 1743, by Youghall Lodge No 21, in which “The Royal Arch was carried by two excellent Brethren”.

Degrees other than the three Craft degrees were conferred in a Craft Lodge due to the fact Royal Arch Chapters had not been formed as early as this first referral. The degree of Royal Arch would have been carried out in a discreet part of the room where only those associated with that part of the proceedings would have assembled with the Craft Brethren gathering in another part of the room, the degree being conferred in a very quiet manner.

In 1786 Grand Lodge resolved “It is highly improper for a Mason’s Lodge, as such, to enter upon their books transactions relative to the Royal Arch”. However, in practice, most country Lodges used their Craft minutes to record all lodge transactions, including the Royal Arch.

On 1st November 1787 a Bro. John Rigby, Worshipful Master of Lodge No 620, presented a memorial to the Grand Lodge of Ireland…  “praying that the Higher degrees of Masonry, including the Royal Arch, shall be made subordinate to the Grand Lodge of Ireland”.  A Committee was appointed to discuss the subject but no action was taken until 1805 when a resolution was passed by Grand Lodge to constitute a Supreme Grand Chapter.

The resolution caused fierce opposition from many Royal Arch Lodges/Chapters resulting in resolutions denouncing the new innovations as unnecessary, irrelevant and dangerous, as subscribed by the Worshipful Master, William McCall, of Lodge No 112 and dated 20th January 1806.

The fact many Brethren deemed it their right to continue the work the degrees in their Craft Lodges, having done so for many years, coupled with the ‘Seton’ revolt and the subsequent formation of the Grand Lodge of Ulster, resulted in the resolution failing.

It was not until 1828 that the question of a Supreme Grand Chapter was tabled again, this time by Bro. John Fowler, a former Deputy Grand Master.

Arising out of the representations of Bro. Fowler (at the time, Deputy Grand Secretary, who was held in very high esteem by the then Grand Master, the 3rd Duke of Leinster), the Grand Master summoned a meeting of Royal Arch Masons on the 25th February 1829 at which every Chapter would be represented. The authority to constitute the Supreme Grand Royal Arch Chapter of Ireland resulted from this meeting.

The minutes of the “Grand Convocation of Royal Arch Masons” held in Dublin on the 11th June 1829 show that the Chapter, having been opened in ample form and the Companions present “having verified their powers, were received as representatives and proxies  of no less than 53 private Chapters, Companion John Fowler, at that time Past Deputy Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Ireland and at that time Deputy Grand Secretary, confirmed the objects of the Preparatory Convocation and the intention and views of those Royal Arch masons who, with the sanction of His Grace the Duke of Leinster, had contributed to forward the present undertaking”.

The next paragraph in the minutes indicates that the Companions present “do herby declare and constitute themselves The Grand and Supreme Royal Arch Chapter for Ireland, which motion being put was carried unanimously”.

It was then resolved that “all Chapters of Royal Arch Masons {which} think proper to apply for warrants shall be entitled to them on payment of the sum of five shillings”

Despite the fact the Supreme Grand Royal Arch Chapter of Ireland was constituted in 1829, in some instances it was many years thereafter before all Chapters came fully under its control.

In 1854 the Supreme Grand Royal Arch Chapter appointed a Ritual Commission which, between 1859 and 1861 made drastic changes to the Royal Arch ritual. The final revision of the new ritual was approved by the Supreme Royal Arch Chapter on the 16th November 1864 and was then adopted as the Official Irish Version.

It was not until 1939, despite the existence of the Supreme Royal Arch Chapter since 1829, that the M.W. Grand Lodge recognised the Royal Arch degrees with the following law (30):-

Pure Ancient Masonry consists of the following degrees and no others, viz:- the Entered Apprentice, the Fellow Craft, the Master Mason and the Installed Master, but the degrees of Royal Arch and Mark Master Mason shall also be recognised so long as the Supreme Royal Arch Chapter of Ireland shall only work those two degrees in the form in which they are worked ‘at the passing of the Law’ “